Amid ongoing fears in the West that Moscow could be planning an invasion of Ukraine, a group of prominent Russian liberals and anti-Kremlin activists has published a petition warning the government to step back from the brink, and criticizing authorities for their role in the worsening standoff.
More than 100 people, mostly writers, activists, and scholars, signed the petition, titled “Declaration by the supporters of peace against the Party of War in the Russian government” and published on news site Echo of Moscow on Sunday.
The authors cite reports of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, deliveries of Russian military equipment into the war-torn Donbass region, and NATO armament in eastern Europe. “The citizens of Russia are de facto becoming prisoners of criminal adventurism, the direction Russian foreign policy is taking,”they write.
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The signatories include Lev Ponomaryov, an activist and founder of the organization ‘For Human Rights.’ Ponomaryov has been labeled a ‘foreign agent’ by Moscow’s Ministry of Justice over links to funding from abroad. Also on the list are Boris Vishnevksy, a leader in the liberal opposition party Yabloko; and Lev Gudkov, academic supervisor of the polling organization Levada Center, also recognized as a ‘foreign agent.’
The signatories do not specify which political figures they see as belonging to the “Party of War,” but claim that state media in Russia is urging people to aggression. “On state TV there is only one point of view, and that is the point of view of the supporters of war,” they write. “We hear clear threats of war from there, aggression pours out, and hate towards Ukraine, America, and Western countries. But the most dangerous thing is that war is treated as an acceptable and inevitable development of events.”
The authors go on to accuse Russian authorities of ignoring the wishes and the needs of the country’s people, failing to take into account the potential costs of military action. “Russia does not need war with Ukraine or the West,” they conclude. “No one is threatening us, and no one will attack us. Politics founded on the advancement of the idea of such a war is amoral, irresponsible, and criminal, and cannot be carried on in the name of the Russian people.”
However, the petition does not name specific political or media figures in Russia who are promoting war. Authorities in Moscow have repeatedly denied accusations that Russia is planning to attack its neighbor, and have called for security agreements that would limit the activity of NATO, the US-led military bloc, in Eastern Europe, including prohibiting it from expanding into Ukraine or Georgia, two countries that share borders with Russia.
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Leaders in NATO and Washington have said that such an agreement is impossible, and Moscow has threatened unspecified “military-technical” measures if its demands are not met.